20 February 2010

Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead--The Lost Art and Skill of Proof Reading

How many times have I written an email, letter, et cetera and sent it on its merry way only to discover later I had a grand faux pas within the text? And, then I envisioned the receiver reading it and I'm thinking, "Ha! So, he fancies himself some sort of a writer, eh?"

When I produced my one-and-only self-published novel, The Calamari Code: An Agatha Pixie Mystery, I thought I had had the manuscript in pristine condition. However, a couple of years later, a friend read it and went through it with her fine point red pen, and when she was done, I was quite humbled and embarrassed, indeed, at the all the small errors I had completely over looked!

I began my writing career as a 16-year-old photojournalist, and I still love journalism.

In one small room at the Wyoming State Tribune sat a little old man who read through each and every typeset story, scrutinizing each and every line for the smallest of grammatical, mechanical, and structural errors. I was always amazed at his quick skill and flashing red grease pencil.

Sometimes the error was the typesetter's fault, but mostly the writer had written some incoherent junk.

Those days are gone. I know of no proofreaders in the newspaper industry, and sometimes I wonder if even the biggest of the publishing houses even employ that special of all persons--the Proofreader.

I've only read three or four of my 14 novels after they have been published.

1) I've spent so much time on them previously, I am sick and tired of the story.
2) Like actors who can't watch themselves on the screen, I'm not comfortable looking at myself in print.
3) I always end up saying this: "Oh, man, I could have written that sentence that way!" Or, "Crap! I left this or that out!"
4) I've found typos in the novels that were caused by the typesetter, and I know my readers are thinking, "So, that Garmon fancies himself a bit of a writer, eh?"

I find typos in the best selling of novels, whether King, Koontz, Rowling, Asimov, et cetera. I don't know if any of those best selling writers read their works once they are published, but I can bet they get fan mail telling them about "their" errors.

While at the last newspaper for which I worked, the staff would receive anonymous letters from some little old lady (at least, I assumed she was a little old lady by the style of her handwriting and her near-perfect grammar) chiding us for all the errors we made both collectively and individually.

I finally had had enough and wrote a response in my weekly column challenging her to reveal herself. After all, I put my name out there for the public to see, and she should do the same. I invited her to work for the newspaper (although I didn't have any authority to hire anybody) as our proofreader and help us to correct our errant writing ways.

A few days ago a friend sent me an email with with classic newspaper headline errors.

After laughing my way through these, I came to the conclusion proofreading is a dead art and craft indeed.

Here are some newspaper gems:

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter

He's quite a shot!

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says

No crap, really? Ya think?

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers

Now that's taking things a bit far

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over

What a guy!

Miners Refuse to Work after Death

No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so's!

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant

See if that works any better than a fair trial!

War Dims Hope for Peace

I can see where it might have that effect!

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile

Ya think?!

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures

Who would have thought!

Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide

They may be on to something!

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges

You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?

Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge

He probably IS the battery charge!

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group

Weren't they fat enough?!

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft

That's what he gets for eating those beans!

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

Do they taste like chicken?

Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half

Chainsaw Massacre all over again!

Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors

Boy, are they tall!

And the winner is....

Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

Did I read that right?

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